So, I made the mistake of getting on Twitter after Super Jackie Grealish’s new contract was announced. Needless to say, there were more than a few morons claiming a lack of ambition and welcoming him to another relegation battle. Or saying he settled because he was priced out of a move. Such small, sad people.
Look. We all know how it is. A player seeks his ceiling, be it wages, silverware, legacy. The general theme is that when a “big” club comes calling, you come running. You get the money, the big stage. And Gareth Southgate will suddenly start to think you can play football since you’re not wearing claret and blue. Ah, Middlesbrough. Footballing mecca, that.
Truth is, as often as not, big-money players just get chewed up. Manager, system, owners, expectations…A brilliant player in the wrong place at the wrong time, well. Doesn’t matter how good you are. It’s a roll of the dice.
Jack: Good lad, humble. Always plays with a smile. Always tries to raise his game. Has a bit of a fumble now and then, but he’s Villa through and through, technically brilliant, and has carried his family’s club on his back. He doesn’t lack ambition. He’s not a shirker. Far from it.
I’m not going to put words in his mouth. Doesn’t mean he’ll stick around forever. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t wish him out the door if we get relegated, or that he hasn’t said, “One more year and I’m off, whether things aren’t looking up or your valuation is met.” We won’t begrudge him in the slightest if he feels he needs to move.
But we also really want to believe in our clubs. We really like saying he’s one of our own. Because it does mean something. Or used to. And that’s the connection that the Champions League and Sky money have destroyed.
We all get it. We get money. We get TV. We get the CL and all the rest. But we’d all like to think that if we were good enough, we’d stick with our boyhood club if the club treated us right, and if the club were willing to let us go when they knew our talents exceed their limitations.
For too long, Villa have been considered a selling club. Barry, Milner, Delph, Young…go back as far as you like. Compass are trying to build something. And you don’t build anything by having to sell your best players. By having to admit you can’t go any further.
“He’s only staying because he was priced out of a move.” b*****ks. He’s worth more than Harry Maguire, for a start. I’m sick of the entrenched top 4-6 thinking they can just dictate terms because they’re interested. Pay up or f**k off. Simple as.
Jack may be here another five years. He may leave next year. Who knows. He didn’t know, apparently, until after the Manure friendly. But he wasn’t pushing for a move. He waited, listened, and said, “Yeah. Why not?”
A little bit more of this, and football would make a lot more sense.
We all know that if we go down he needs to stay up. We all know he’s better than every player around him. We also know he’d rather be a star, a legend, than a disposable widget in a football factory. We all know Compass drew a line and said, “If you want him, here’s the price. We’d like to go somewhere and we’re rich, too.” They’ll try to match his ambition because if they don’t, we don’t deserve to aspire. Not unreasonable. Like I said, he’s worth more than Maguire.
And Jack is playing along. He knows he’s not Messi or Ronaldo. He also knows he can play with the best. But he’d rather stick with us for at least another year than just jump ship to become another forgotten big-money transfer that didn’t quite work out. How long is that list?
No bids? The Uniteds of the world avoid embarrassment by making their interest known and turning heads without making bids. The Spurs of the world keep lowballing and losing out, which is why they’re always on the outside looking in.
So. Well done, Jack. We know what’s in play. And we thank you for the vote of confidence. We thank you for staying another year in the Championship. We thank you for getting us back up and helping us stick. We thank you for steadying us for at least one more season. You’ve done everything we could’ve asked.
If or when you move on, we’ll always remember you. Because when it counted, you were Aston Villa. And that’s all a player could ever ask for.
Over to you.